Climate change protest held against Shrewsbury relief road plans
Climate activists from across the county staged a demonstration outside Shropshire Council’s headquarters featuring a bespoke road sign protesting plans for the Shrewsbury North West Relief Road.
The road sign, a mock up of a UK Highways mileage board, highlighted the estimated £17 million cost of the road to the authority.
The protest outside Shirehall in Shrewsbury on Friday was organised by Shropshire’s Extinction Rebellion groups.
“At a time when the people of Shropshire need investment in our communities and local services, the council is spending over £17 million of our money on a road just for Shrewsbury,” said Extinction Rebellion spokesman Mike Bastow.
“What benefit do the people of Oswestry or Ludlow get from it? Absolutely none.
“Right now, one in five children in Shropshire are living in food poverty and services are being slashed, but the council insists on pursuing this costly and disastrous project.”
The socially distanced protesters carried signs that highlighted the controversial funding of the NWRR, including fears that Shropshire Council could face a large bill to cover any overspend on the £71 million project, for which a government grant of £54 million has been secured.
Mr Bastow said: “Since when has a project like this ever come in on or under budget? There will be overrun costs and the people of Shropshire will have to pay for them.
“Shropshire Council is currently facing a shortfall of £18.5 million this financial year due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic. At a time like this, the NWRR is a road to bankruptcy.”
Other activists protestors held signs explaining how the money could be better spent in their own towns.
“This road is a disgrace,” said Alison Layland from XR Oswestry and Borders. “Oswestry desperately needs a range of improvements to build on what we’ve learned during lockdown and make it more people-friendly.
“These include changing the layout of the town centre to favour cyclists and pedestrians, reinstating a rail link to Gobowen and the wider rail network, improved bus services in town and the wider area, tree planting and community green spaces. Instead of this, we’re seeing millions going into building a new road.
“Worse still, the road is an environmental disaster for Shropshire.
“What’s the point of declaring a climate emergency if you’re going to start building roads through the Severn Valley, destroying natural habitats and wildlife and pumping tonnes of climate-wrecking CO2 into the air?”
Steve Hale, from XR Bishop’s Castle, said: “The road is a prime example of Shropshire Council’s total focus on Shrewsbury to the detriment of the rest of us.
“Our town desperately needs investment in better public transport – particularly frequent bus services to our nearest neighbours, Church Stretton and Craven Arms, to link with train services and the main North-South route through Shropshire.
“Our library and sports centre are continually under threat of closure, due to lack of funding but, yet again, we’re seeing millions going into unwanted and damaging road schemes in and around the county town.”
A planning application is expected imminently for the NWRR, which will extend from the Ellesmere Road roundabout to the north of Shrewsbury to the Welshpool Road roundabout to the West.
Mr Bastow added: “It’s not too late to stop the council from wasting money on this project.
“Extinction Rebellion asks anyone who wants the £17 million spent on something better to email their councillors with their views. It’s your money that they’re wasting, after all.”
A Shropshire Council spokesman said it was important to remember the DfT grant was not transferable to other projects, but that other funding would continue to be available to other schemes across Shropshire.
The spokesman added: “The planning application for the road is due to be submitted shortly.
“Those who wish to object to the scheme will have the opportunity to do so through the planning process, and their views will be taken into account by the local planning authority in making its decision.
“An environmental impact assessment will be submitted as part of the full planning application, and will then be available to read on the Shropshire Council website.”
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